It's not often that Mark Sanchez has been an afterthought in his NFL career. But on a day when the Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the addition of a new passer to the team's stable of quarterbacks was relegated to secondary interest.
For Sanchez, though, the next step in a journey that saw him go from fifth overall pick to ubiquitous New York coverboy to season-ending shoulder injury and eventual release which now finds him as a competitor in the Eagles backfield is a welcome one – unheralded as it may be.
"It's been a different kind of transition, but (I have) some great memories there," Sanchez said Friday about his former team, the New York Jets, for whom he had 62 starts, not including four playoff victories. "I love that team, love that organization and I'm happy to make the transition and excited to be in a new spot. As for why, I feel like this team, this coach, the kind of offensive firepower they have is just an exciting element to have here in Philadelphia.
"I feel like (head coach Chip Kelly) really is on the cutting edge of the NFL and he's one of those guys who really has an exciting vision for the future. I think he is on a constant pursuit of a competitive edge. He's an excitable person. I think as an offensive mind, I'm going to do nothing but learn here working with offensive-minded guys, working with coach Kelly, (offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur), (quarterback coach Bill Musgrave). This is an incredible opportunity, so I'm really thankful to (Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie), to (general manager Howie Roseman) and coach Kelly."
What is it about the Eagles, though, that attracted the 27-year-old, who has started every game of his NFL career?
"I think it's the best fit," Sanchez said. "I think offensively it's the best fit. I think the kind of leaders they have on this team, (Jason) Kelce and (Jason) Peters on the line, we talked about the offensive firepower, this is one of the most explosive teams you see around the league. Just to get a shot to play and compete at this level with these guys, that's going to be fun for me and hopefully add something to this team with my experience. That can only help.
"I think the nutrition, the scheduling, everything we've talked about in the last 24 hours with their weight-room regimen, everything is not just new, but there's a purpose. They're driven by something, and that's the overall success of this team. All the data they collect, everything that goes into this is well-calculated, well-thought-out and it sounds like something I want to be a part of as a competitor, as somebody who's always trying to improve my skills. I feel like this is one of the best things for me personally and for this team, that we help each other out."
In Philadelphia, Sanchez joins a crowded group of quarterbacks – and familiar faces. Sanchez and Foles share an agent while his primary competition for the No. 2 role, second-year player Matt Barkley, is the player who succeeded Sanchez as USC quarterback. In fact, Sanchez hosted Barkley on the latter's visit to campus. Even G.J. Kinne spent time with Sanchez as a member of the New York Jets. But past relationships won't affect Sanchez's approach to competition.
"I'm confident no matter who I'm going against," Sanchez said. "I'm coming in here, I'm not stirring up a controversy. I'm here to help this team win, whatever that means and I'm just excited to be on the team, thrilled about the opportunity but more importantly I really do respect Foles. I respect what he's done here, especially this last year. I think he's a heck of a player, an incredible talent and I'm excited to work with him.
"I'm confident in my skills. I'm going to compete to be the best player I can possibly be and that's going to help me, that's going to help Nick, that's going to help Matt Barkley, G.J. Kinne, who I've had experience with. It sounds like the best quarterback room you can ask for … I'm always going to want to start. I think Matt Barkley wants to start. I think G.J. Kinne wants to start. (Former Jets quarterback) Greg McElroy wanted to start. It doesn't matter where you are, all those guys want to play and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't think there's anything wrong with having that drive. So I'll keep that fire going and try to help this team the best I can."
Though Sanchez never went head-to-head against Kelly as a head coach during their shared time in the Pac-10 (Kelly was Oregon's offensive coordinator during Sanchez's final two seasons at USC), the quarterback has long been an admirer of Kelly's. After spending some time with his new coach over the past few days, Sanchez said he has a feel for what will be expected of him at the quarterback position.
"A good decision maker, a guy who can compete at a high level, someone who can think fast," Sanchez said. "He calls it a fast blinker. Somebody who can understand the system, who's familiar with these kinds of concepts and it just felt like everything married out very well.
"I love the tempo of the offense. I feel like some of the best success where I've been has been at a high tempo at the end of the game or when we just picked things up and started rolling in a two-minute fashion. So it feels like that's kind of the norm around here, and that's not just exciting but it's fun for me. That's fun for a quarterback."
Sanchez also lauded the internal energy he found upon visiting the NovaCare Complex this week. From the top down, Sanchez said, he can sense a program with a bright future.
"Coach Kelly is an excitable guy," Sanchez said. "His energy is contagious and infectious. I think it overflows from him to the staff, to the players, to the guys who were here working out this morning. I haven't seen guys be happy like that to be a part of an offseason program that hasn't even started yet, so that's pretty cool.
"That stuff is contagious and it gets you excited to be in a place like this. The way he talked about having the right players for the system. He feels like he's just about got that here. The kind of vision moving forward of what it's supposed to look like kind of came together for them towards the end of the season, so it's kind of a team on the rise and I think they have the right guy, the right people, personnel, whether it's on the field or in the coaching box. From top to bottom, they're ready to roll."
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